This is the capstone post about our AmaWaterways Riches of the Mekong river cruise in early April 2018. Here we provide a summary of the trip as well as some over all impressions.
Summary of AmaWaterways Riches of the Mekong
Including the pre cruise extensions in Hanoi, HaLong Bay and Siem Reap as well as the post cruise in Saigon, this is a 16 day tour. That’s a long time but you take in so much. Here’s a summary of what you’ll see:
- Remains of 12th century Khmer Empire
- Hindu and Buddhist religions and influences,
- Unique beauty of Ha Long Bay
- Big cities of Hanoi, Phenom Penh and Saigon
- Influence of the French, Indian and Chinese
- Constant reminders of the Vietnam war
- Communist influences
- Poverty in many places
- Warm welcoming locals
- Dramatic and swift economic growth especially in the cities
Overview AmaWaterways Riches of the Mekong river cruise
We’ve written fairly detailed blog posts about each phase of the trip. Here’s an overview of each of our posts.
Northern Vietnam and Cambodia by land
In our first post, Hanoi: orderly Chaos, we describe the Hanoi Hilton POW prison, the thousand year old Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh, a bomb shelter, and a crazy ride through Old Hanoi on a cyclo (bike powered rickshaw).
Next in the Ha Long Bay post we share our experience on a luxury Junk, our trip to the caves, the surreal Ha Long bay landscape and a visit to the Ha Long Bay fish market.
We describe our first day in Siem Reap in our Angkor Wat post. There’s the beautiful Sofitel hotel, the magnificent Angkor Wat temple and the surprisingly different Bantey Srei temple. But there’s also lots to learn about Cambodia, including some traditional dances.
Our second day in Siem Reap is described in our Khmer Temples post. We went to the Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom as well as the fascinating Ta Prohm. And we got to meet some incredible school children.
On the Mekong
The next blog post, All aboard describes the day traveling from Siem Reap to the AmaDara. Lots of Cambodian education en route, the town of Kampong Chhang, and our first view of a floating village. But we also take an ox cart ride and receive a blessing from a real Buddhist monk.
On our way to Phnom Penh, we stopped at a silk village and another local school. In Phnom Penh, we tour the city including a stop at the central park and central market. The day ends with some local youth entertainment.
Our exposure to the Khmer Rouge included a visit to the Killing Fields and S21 Detention Center (prison) near Phnom Penh. The visits were sobering to say the least. Luckily the mood was lighter with a visit to the Cambodian National Palace and Museum.
We enter the Mekong Delta as we leave Cambodia heading to southern Vietnam. Our visit to an automated silk factory and local rattan factory was via rickshaw (bicycle driven). We also visited a small island to see traditional ways of life.
Finally our Last Night on the AmaDara, we visit the Sa Dec food market and watch workshops of rice cake and rice paper. Our last excursion was to an historical house in the country which was nicely preserved.
After leaving the ship we spent two days in Saigon described here: In and around Saigon. This includes the former Presidential Palace, the War Remnants Museum and Saigon’s largest market.
Overall this is a wonderful experience. It covers so much history, geography and cultures. And because over half the trip is on land, there’s a fair amount of moving around every few days. But it’s well worth it. Definitely a once in a lifetime type of trip. This is an active and experiential trip and a deep dive into Southeast Asia (aka Indochina).
It’s hard not to be impressed with the people that we met. Certainly our fellow passengers. We felt honored to spend time with so many great people. So the first impression we are left with is a positive one regarding friends – old and new.
But we are also impressed with the locals. The annual flood cycle of the river system has yielded both prosperity and poverty, power and weakness, control and terror through the years. Vietnam and Cambodia are third world countries to be sure. Progress is everywhere though. In Saigon, economic growth was buoyed by foreign investment. In Siem Reap, tourist money is driving prosperity.
Yet we were struck most with the kindness we found, the smiles we saw and they friendliness we witnessed. These are people whose lives have depended on the Mekong River for centuries and have made peace with it and the tropic weather that seems to bring new meaning to the word “humid”. At least to us.
Why should you take AmaWaterways Riches of the Mekong river cruise? Take this trip to learn about a great cultures and civilizations in the past. You should take this trip to experience the tropics in luxury. And you should take this trip to gain perspective on your own life and appreciate what we each have.
Meet some of the Vietnamese and Cambodians we saw on our river cruise: